The Mummy on DVD
a Real Treat
by Jim Bray
Universal home video's
"Ultimate Edition DVD" release of "The Mummy" isn't just a bandage solution
to exploiting the DVD medium's potential. Instead, it's a fully fleshed
out package collectors and movie lovers can really sink their teeth into.
Okay, enough with
This title is a perfect
example of how Universal studios not only understands the DVD medium,
but (as with its many other "Collector's Editions") knows how to give
the audience the most bang for its video buck.
Sort of a remake of
Universal's 1932 Boris Karloff thriller, the 1999 Mummy is less an out
and out scare fest and more a tongue in cheek action flick with some reasonably
scary moments. Look at it as "Big Trouble in Little China" meets "Raiders
of the Lost Ark." And as such, it succeeds on both counts.
Brendan Fraser stars
as Rick O'Connell, our "Indiana Jones-type" hero, and his characterization
is indeed a broad one. He's joined by Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, with
Arnold Visloo in the title role of Imhotep, a guy who really falls to
pieces as the movie progresses, though he manages to pull himself together
by the later stages.
The Mummy is a movie
that really should be seen on as big a screen as possible, though of course
that's limited by the TV you have in your home. From the opening shot,
a gorgeous special effects extravaganza that's a perfect scene setter,
the movie comes across as a big screen epic, even though the screenplay
at times seems more like a Hollywood "B" movie - which isn't a criticism;
some of my favorite films would qualify for that description. But Ben-Hur
this ain't, even though it has the same type of megabuget production values.
The plot follows Fraser
and his team's race to find the lost City of the Dead, site of rumored
fabulous buried treasure. Of course it's also the location of a horrible
curse featuring Imhotep himself and his mysterious powers and even more
The whole movie is
done tongue in cheek, but it works. And, while there are some reasonably
scary moments, the movie never forgets that it's at heart an action/adventure
The special effects
are astonishing, from that opening shot right through the climactic battle
against an army of the undead. The movie leaves you shaking your head
in wonder at how they did it.
Fortunately, you don't
have to wonder for long. Universal has loaded this two DVD set with oodles
of extra material, and it's a wonderful and well thought out collection
First of all, the
second disc gives you a Pan&Scan version of the film, for those who
can't stand those black bars above and below the picture. It's also featured
in Dolby Digital 5.1, though you don't get the DTS treatment as you do
on the anamorphic widescreen version that comes on disc one. There's also
a full length documentary "Building a Better Mummy," which details the
painstaking creation of the digital special effects at the "magic factory"
of George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic facility, arguably the best
thing to happen to movie special effects in the history of Hollywood.
There's also a separate
audio track commentary by directory Stephen Sommers and film editor Bob
Ducsay, and another one featuring star Brendan Fraser, and a third one
with other cast members. These commentaries are almost always fascinating
glimpses into the workings of the minds of those who crafted the film.
You also get an introduction
to Egyptology, including some history and maps of the region. And there's
a section on creating the effects of specific scenes, from the original
background plate to the finished footage, a few scenes that were deleted
from the film (and which the film doesn't miss, fortunately), and of course
the theatrical trailers. There's also a DVD-ROM component that includes
cast and crew info and even a (rather Mickey Mouse) Mummy game. There
are also screensavers and "electronic postcards."
And just in case you
didn't catch the timing of the special new edition, Universal throws in
some promo stuff for "The Mummy Returns," which hit theaters as this DVD
was being released.
Cast/crew info is
also available, as is stuff like screen savers, "script to scene" comparisons,
a demo of the PC game spinoff, and Web links.
Even the liner notes
for "The Mummy" are first rate. You get a four page blurb on the film's
genesis, and a list of chapters and special features.
The audio/video quality
are outstanding. Not so outstanding is the box, which features a strange,
swingout thing to hold the first disc. It makes getting the liner notes
out a real pain.
The Mummy, Collector's
Edition, from Universal Home Video
125 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1)/Pan&Scan, Dolby Digital
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannay, Arnold Vosloo
Screen Story by Stephen Sommers and Lloyd Fonvelle & Kevin Jarre,
Screenplay by Stephen Sommers,
Produced by James Jacks, Sean Daniel, Directed by Stephen Sommers.
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